“What interests me most is the surface of our daily lives; it’s like the greasy scum that floats on water.”

Born 1978, Putian, Fujian

Society, in Wu Junyong’s view, is “a fable or a riddle made up by individuals in large numbers”. It is this confused and often crazy tale that he depicts in allegorical paintings and animations. Apollo and Daphne, Snakes and The Third Leg (2012) are part of a series inspired by mythology, which he loves for its timelessness and its symbolic language. “I try to make it less serious by mixing elements from different traditions,” he says. “I might use a bit of Greek myth, a bit of Chinese and a bit of Japanese, and change the meaning of the symbols to make it my own story.” Wu Junyong is also fascinated by “the intersection of politics and the human body”. His works on this theme depict a surreal hell whose inhabitants obsessively repeat strange exercises and pointless rituals. His 2008 series of oil paintings reflects on the failures of Communism, with a party official tooting a tiny trumpet as he is buried under a marketplace slab, and a Karl Marx with ideological symbols in place of a brain. In the animation Opera (2007), naked politician-actors jerk their way like pink puppets through absurd and vulgar routines for which the sole audience seems to be themselves. In Cloud’s Nightmare (2010), the viewer watches as if through binoculars as silhouetted humans and animals go through their baffling motions in the teeth of an evil wind. “There are lots of hidden secrets in my works,” Wu Junyong says. “You’ll need to spend time looking at them to get the clues.”

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